Apple Inc. (AAPL) has long restricted its customers to using their credit or debit cards when paying for all purchases  made on Apple devices. But now Apple is looking to break away from its long-held control over customer payments by allowing the charges to be billed to the consumer’s mobile carrier. (For more, see What's Behind Apple's Recent Rise?)

Mobile Carrier Billing

Under the carrier-billing system, customers can pay for various forms of digital content, such as apps from the App Store and iTunes; and on-demand services such as Apple Music, iBooks and Apple TV,  by charging them directly to their monthly mobile bills.

For instance, Japan’s second-largest mobile company KDDI will allow its customers an option in the Apple App Store to pay by mobile.

The move by Apple will facilitate the payment options to many customers who don’t have a credit or debit card or who would prefer not to use them to pay for services they can charge directly to their phone. Avoiding the inconvenience of punching in lengthy card details for various transactions, the simple tap to opt for carrier billing should encourage more purchases.

Apple’s chief rival, Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL), has a head start in carrier billing. Google Play has mobile billing availability in 45 different markets, in conjunction with leading mobile operators. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) also enabled carrier billing in the United Kingdom with O2, and in Italy with Wind.

Apple’s Carrier Billing Initiative

Apple started carrier billing in Germany with Telefonica's O2 in October 2015, and later introduced it in Russia in partnership with VimpelCom Beeline. This week, it was expanded to Switzerland in partnership with Swisscom, in Taiwan with Far EasTone, and in Japan with KDDI.

Carrier billing has significant share in purchases in markets like Japan. Yahoo! News cites research firm Ovum which says “carrier billing accounts for 70 percent of purchases on Google Play in Japan and South Korea”, and also expands to physical products, particularly “low-value items such as snacks, drinks and phone accessories.”

The $6.2-billion worth of revenues generated from mobile gaming also make a significant target group in Japan.

Amid declining growth in sale of the iconic iPhone handsets, expansion to newer targeted geographies with carrier billing is seen as an attempt to bolster the sale of more apps and subscription services. (See also: Apple Bets on Apps, Services To Fuel Growth.)

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